Birthing the Shadow

We yearn to be whole, mostly unbeknownst to ourselves, but still we do. The part of ourselves we most hate will often reappear in one of our children. Depending on our awareness and commitment toward growth, we can embrace this challenge and grow to love or torment this child for showing us what we hate and refuse to see.

While watching the second season of The Crown, I was deeply moved by the ninth episode: the story of young Prince Charles and his education. Having struggled to be in a regular school, the Queen was advised to send her sensitive and not quite the sporting type son to Eton. His father, Philip was adamantly opposed. Eton, he felt, would turn his son into everything he hated. He wanted Charles to be toughened up, just as he had been. In the end, he won the struggle and the Prince was sent to the frigid and frightening Gordonstoun, where (according to the series) he suffered terribly for six years.

What struck me in this dramatization was the degree in which Philip rejected who his son was – the sensitivity and hurt Philip himself had been forced to push away in his own life. His shadow. If Philip had had another upbringing himself – as the episode revealed the hardships Philip endured at this Gordonstoun – perhaps he wouldn’t have had such a severe shadow. The denial of sensitivity, replaced by the need to ‘toughen up’ is not an unknown story.

Today, this element is acute in the United States. Trump, supposedly, was. tormented by his own father growing up. A year before the election, I was having tea in Berlin with a German friend. He warned that the rise of Trump (similar to the rise of Hitler) would be very much about the shadow. “If only America,” my friend said, shaking his head sadly, “could rise to the challenge and embrace their shadow. But I fear the country is too invested in its mythology and will miss this chance, just as we in Germany missed ours and there will be some very dark years ahead.”

What does that mean to embrace the shadow both on an individual level and a broader societal level? And what kind of maturity does it take? Obviously, in the case of both Germany and the US now, that degree of maturity doesn’t seem to exist.

In my own life, I had a terrible time growing up. My parents couldn’t accept that I was sensitive and moody and more interested in creativity than in their conventional and materialistic practicality. Unfortunately, being the first born, the same as Charles, I came to represent the shadow in my family. I can see that now from the distance of years but as a child I had no clue, only suffered miserably trying to please my parents. Just as Charles did. The only way to please a parent who refuses to see who you are, is to deny who you are.

Years of therapy, Alexander Technique and 12-step support has aided my cause in becoming more my ‘authentic’ self, but even at age 63 I still struggle with this element, still can more easily toss myself and my deepest convictions away, suffer terribly bouts of insecurity and self-hate, before climbing out of the darkness when realizing I’ve yet again chosen first to throw myself away. Especially, in the growing arena of social media where one can be constantly tormented with comparison and not measuring up, it is a challenge to be in your own ‘axis,’ to be your own person, to have healthy self-regard regardless of what other’s think.

The killing notion of the American Dream

People seem to be afraid of what they cannot see: that what they cannot touch and eat and feel doesn’t exist. When all the while they are being controlled by a far greater force than they could ever imagine. The force of an ideal and the power of how we think others see us. It is a dangerous illusion that a sense of noisy might – a Tomahawk missile sent in the night – will make us strong and keep us safe.

And it makes me wonder, as I walk long and hard in the hills outside Oslo (in a land that used to only feel boring, before I knew the wonders hidden in quiet and the great gift of having time to think), if the whole essence of the American Dream is deadly. That George Carlin was right when he jokingly said in performance that the American Dream can only happen when you are sleeping. Living abroad, living far away from America, has given distance from this killing notion of the American Dream, of the devouring demand (on each of us and the planet’s resources) of this illusion. I’ve finally recovered from the potent effect of my mother’s phone calls, to wherever I happen to be living, informing me in her loud and shrill voice how so and so has “made it.” It used to leave me bleeding and struggling for breath, with her unspoken assumption that I hadn’t done so and if I hoped to stay part of the tribe of the acceptable I better rush to do so, to make it. But now, with the epitome of this American Dream as so-called President, in front of our face no matter how far you travel away from America, makes me see ever so clearly how the powerful sorcerers at work have created a most dangerous and devastating myth.

DO PLACES CHANGE OR DO WE?

I arrived to this little village in the south of Crete over three weeks ago. As my husband and I continue to search for where to live, I wondered if this could be the place. Though lovely enough as a beach resort, all crucial for me in a potential home: the chance to find friends, community, a venue to play music, a way to be of service ­– in living a more spiritually-based existence, the idea of giving service is paramount – and of course (the most important part that keeps me sane) places to dance, didn’t seem here.

The first days, ever eager, I did meet some of the ex-pats living here. And what they told me was this: “If you want to be in this town, then find a way to be on your own. If it is community you search, you won’t find that here! Good luck,” they said in lieu of kindness.

But then my husband found a charming, helpful and incredibly cheap physical therapist here. He had a bad accident some months ago, and his injured shoulder refused to heal. Though I am an experienced Alexander Technique practitioner, and have helped numerous others with the same problem, it’s not so easy to work on one’s spouse. I advised him to stay, that together with my hands-on and the physical therapy, it was a good chance to get well, that the time here, albeit away from my cherished ingredients would be good for writing. And so we’ve stayed here soon a month.

Indeed, not having most of my requirements met, gave a surprising sense of time and freedom. The writing has gone well. And the strangest thing – by not having what I thought I needed, life has crept inside anyhow. Many nights, just walking the colorful streets in Paleochora, with all the street musicians – and some are very good – I found myself dancing to their music.

A few nights ago, I was invited by a lovely Scottish woman who runs a guesthouse and restaurant and does a lovely Sat. evening dinner to come and dance! The musicians already knew me and smiled happily to see me, as I seem the only visitor who actually knows Greek dancing. The evening was a huge success, and at the end, many people (who had also gotten up to dance, as I wasn’t there to do a show, but create atmosphere) thanked me for giving them this chance. “Just the fact that you dared to get up and dance, and that you knew how, gave us someone to follow and the courage to follow you! It was a great night – thank you!”

So you just never know when the life you’ve been trying so hard to find, finds you!

Slow learner – but not dead!

Slow learner that I am, it finally hit me how crucial to be our own best friend!! I’ve so often used the sour discouraging look from others to decide how I should feel and what I should do. Having had a sort of “awakening” today, I’d like to put it out there for anyone else giving themselves a hard time for not being further along… life is hard! It is hard to believe in ourselves and our creative children when we (and they) don’t seem to get the love and attention from the world. For today at least, allow me the grace to love the things I love and not punish myself for loving them.

It’s all so simple – but is it?

Thomas and I were practicing yesterday in the little church. As we played, more people came in. We were not giving a concert, but the church is open, anyone can enter. Years ago that would have freaked me out – so many things and people out of my control.

I am not a religious sort, but I do love when the energy of “spirit” so much greater then my feeble mind and restless thinking takes me over. Easy for that to happen in so sweet a church with such welcoming acoustics. Just what I teach my students – to let the music “sing” you. It did! And with Thomas’s lovely lines of music (he is also listening for this), there was something holding us and loving us.

We had never played before but with that much grace you can’t do it wrong. After the magical music, we climbed the many steps to my little apartment to warm up, Thomas was telling me how simple it all is. Really. We will have our first concerts tomorrow and Wed, and then who knows if we meet again. So for me, that already begins the daunting thoughts of: “I better be good enough or he won’t like me, and won’t ever play with me again!” What is the medicine against those thoughts? I didn’t ask Thomas, I didn’t want him to know I felt any fear. But as if reading my mind, he said:

“The key is, that whatever you play, whatever song, whatever kind of music, you are really in it. If you are in it, then I will feel it and I will be able to play and the audience will love it no matter what. It really is that simple.”

Again, I only nodded in agreement, because I do in essence agree … and yet what I am still learning is to trust the simplicity of “being in the song.” That I am allowed to be there, to love the song, even if I don’t know yet if others will like it, even if it feels a bit raw and ridiculous. The songs that are tried and true, songs I wrote a while ago are easier to feel this. But the new songs – there’s a challenge of trust. So dear ‘grace’ be with me, and help give me the courage to go forward with what I love, with full conviction to be in that love!! Ironically, just the words I ended my book: ‘Pandora Learns to Sing’ with … but for all of us who do music, who yearn to do music, let’s remember that it can be that simple!

Recovering From Having To Be a Famous Singer

There’s a life for your singing beyond fame and fortune -says Deborah Weitzman

It’s a strange paradox: being shy yet wanting desperately to be seen; loving so much to sing, yet only allowing that sweet pleasure when others gave permission. Getting famous – that was the answer.Then I would be loved, and would no longer fear anything.If enough people thought I was good, I must be good – right? If you only give over to the pleasure of abandoned singing when others clap for you, you will surely suffer (as I did), for fame is a fickle taskmaster and a dangerous addiction and even when you get it, it will never be enough.

 Where This Fame Idea Came From for Me:

There were many sources of this suffering. Part of it was the idea that fame would force my mother to love me [insert the person you struggle most with in this sentence], or that I needed the world’s permission to love the thing I loved.

Gradually these ideas shifted. I gradually began to understand that using music to get the love I wanted just contaminated the music.

By stopping who we think we have to be, we discover who we are. 

My mother (like the world) is capable of loving me in her (their) way, and without a desperate need or special demand, I am more open to see and accept and enjoy what is available. Then the music becomes its own force; not a thing to force in order to be loved, but love, itself.

 Questions That Have Transformed My Journey

* What if there is no “making it,” what if the dedication to the service of creating art, of singing is enough?

* What if there is no one, but our higher self who can give us this permission?

This is the greatest gift we can give ourselves – to be in the journey of becoming fully and without shame then there will no longer be the need to get famous.

To let all the elements rise up: our hates and fears, our frustrations and failures, all the times we’ve loved and lost, to let it mix in making the voice rich in texture; to immerse into the amazing curl and wave of sound that is singing.

At my best today, I am able to mix it all in, no longer ashamed of what may come up. Rather, delighted when elements rise up in me: so much richer is the texture of my voice.

I imagine the touch of the wooden floorboards in the studio in Buenos Aires with my bare feet, the cracked ceiling and overhead fan with its swish-swish as it slowly moves the air just enough to create a breeze. I immerse myself in the singing –– the amazing curl and wave of sound.

This article from the magazine Voice Council was adapted by the author from Pandora Learns to Sing– a compelling rite-of-passage of the wind beneath our fears … and what it takes to have a quantum leap in perception. (“an absolutely an un-put-downable, beautiful read”)

Join me in waking up

I just spoke with a friend and we talked about the floods in England and how still the government there stays true to its ideology denying what may actually be climate change. (Impossible to prove, but we can pretty much know for sure there will be more and more terrible erratic storms if we do nothing to curb our fossil fuel use.) They continue to refuse to do anything on that subject. Continue reading

The Personality of Teeth

I must comment on one remarkable feature of living here in this nordic capital, Oslo. And that is my dentist. Over the years, traveling here there and everywhere, the visit to the dentist was mostly an horrific experience. Now, at long last, I actually look forward to the visit. My dentist greets me with smiles and laughs, giving me the feeling that he is delighted to see me, not just as a patient, but as a person with whom he can banter and joke (in English) in a way not often done here. (Norwegians tend to need a bit of alcohol in the system to laugh freely and spontaneously, although this dentist, ever so Norwegian, is a friendly as they come.) Continue reading